Campo's gone, it's time for Cowboys to soar?

BY foxsports • January 10, 2012

Good times are here again, Cowboys fans. Coach Jason Garrett has made his first change at Valley Ranch.

Secondary coach Dave Campo has been told his contract won't be renewed, according to sources close to the situation. So step right up and renew those season tickets. The man most responsible for the Cowboys' late-season collapse is no longer a part of the organization. If you've pitched a tent as part of Occupy Valley Ranch, it's time to break camp.

I mean why would you hold someone like defensive coordinator Rob Ryan accountable when it's so easy to sacrifice a dutiful assistant such as Campo? No, this is what the Cowboys do during tough times. When it comes to scapegoats, they look for the low-hanging fruit, although Campo deserves a better description after serving the organization for nearly 20 years.

It's true that the secondary played a major role in the Cowboys' failures on defense, but it's unlikely that Campo was instructing veteran cornerback Terence Newman to turn himself into a human hurdle against the New York Giants. The "firing" of Campo is what amounts to window-dressing during an offseason in which the Cowboys need to make massive changes to the foundation. Jones has hinted to more changes on the coaching staff, but don't expect anything major.

Veteran offensive line coach Hudson Houck's contract is expiring, but there's been an indication this week from sources both inside and outside the organization that he'll be renewed. Houck's retirement might've cleared the path for Tony Sparano to return to the coaching staff, but it looks like Garrett will stay with status quo. It was Houck who led the rallying cry to draft right tackle Tyron Smith at No. 9 overall, so perhaps he deserves another season or two to work with the Cowboys' best offensive lineman.

The hard work this offseason will be overhauling a roster full of unrestricted free agents and underperforming players. The Cowboys have begun the process of rebuilding their offensive line, but more help is needed. With Smith likely moving to left tackle and Doug Free returning to the right side, the Cowboys should be set at those positions for the next few seasons. There are in-house candidates to fill the interior spots with Phil Costa, Bill Nagy and David Arkin, but Garrett will need to also take a hard look at those positions in the draft and free agency. The Cowboys' head coach now tells us he expected some "growing pains" last season, although he conveniently forgot to mention that at any point before or during the 2011 campaign.

The Cowboys obviously need to re-sign breakout wide receiver Laurent Robinson, but it's unclear what he'll be worth on the open market. You shouldn't pay a $15 million signing bonus to a player whose career was undermined by injuries until last season, but the Cowboys should certainly be competitive. It's also time to try and identify a quarterback in the draft. Stephen McGee is an interesting prospect, but the Cowboys still don't have a strong feeling one way or the other about him. If that's the case after three years in the league, it's probably time to groom another backup to Tony Romo.

With the emergence of DeMarco Murray and fullback Tony Fiammetta, the Cowboys appear to be set at running back. It's one of the few areas of strength for this team, although it will be interesting to see how Murray performs once teams spend more time preparing for him.

The defensive side of the ball is a mess. You have three "core" players in linebackers Sean Lee, DeMarcus Ware and nose tackle Jay Ratliff. But with Ratliff wearing down at the end of each season, the Cowboys need to either try him at defensive end or find another defensive tackle to take some of the snaps. Nose tackle Josh Brent has shown promise, but he wasn't able to play through injuries and then kept showing up on the inactive list.

The Cowboys will spend time next week talking about what to do with former first-round pick Anthony Spencer, who continues to be one of the most maddening players on the roster. He pressures the quarterback at times and actually has a grasp of how to stop the run. But he still disappears in too many games. A source at Valley Ranch told FOXSportsSouthwest.com this week there's a "50-50" shot of Spencer returning for next season. The Cowboys may allow Spencer to test the free-agency waters and then decide whether they want to match potential offers. Believe it or not, there are coaches and scouts around the league who still believe Spencer can be special player.

It's time for the Cowboys to part ways with defensive end Kenyon "Strong Dog" Coleman and safety Abe Elam. Coleman's not strong enough against the run to overcome his deficiencies against the pass. Former third-round pick Jason Hatcher, who'd been somewhat of a disappointment, is coming off the best season of his career. He was a disruptive force for the Cowboys and finally gave them a pass-rushing threat from the defensive end spot.

Lee appears to be one of the league's up-and-coming inside linebackers, but he'll likely lose his mentors Bradie James and Keith Brooking. The Cowboys drafted Bruce Carter in the second round last year to start alongside Lee, but we still don't know a lot about him because he began the 2011 season on the physically-unable-to-perform list. The Cowboys are desperate at so many positions that they should keep a completely open mind with the 14th pick in the draft. You could take the best cornerback, linebacker, defensive end or even guard available.

At cornerback, the Cowboys will look to replace longtime starter Terence Newman, who was exposed down the stretch. They will have to decide whether Orlando Scandrick will continue to be one of the wealthiest nickel corners in the league or make the jump to full-time starter. The Cowboys made a run at Nnamdi Asomugha in free agency, but it's hard to say what his impact would've been when you consider the Eagles flopped in such epic fashion. The Cowboys are stuck with safety Gerald Sensabaugh because of Jones' strange habit of doing long-term extensions during the middle of the season.

If Mat McBriar's foot condition shows improvement this offseason, the Cowboys will surely want to sign him to an extension. And it looks like the club is set at kicker for the foreseeable future with Dan Bailey.

The good news of course is that Campo won't be around to undermine the whole operation. Get your season tickets while they're still available.


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